Unrepresentative
in Held in contempt
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This chapter opens with a vignette of the House of Commons’ arguments over Brexit in September 2019, which illustrates the long-standing debate over whether MPs should act a representatives of, or delegates for their constituents. It makes the case that Brexit undermined the confidence of many members of the public that they were being properly represented in parliament.

The chapter goes on to set out the academic distinction between descriptive and substantive representation, and the data which show how unrepresentative MPs are of the British population. It lays out the arguments for why diversity is important in parliament and the work that has been done so far to increase the diversity of MPs, before considering why improvements in diversity have been so slow in Westminster.

The chapter argues that the Commons needs to become more diverse and also more inclusive for those who visit and work there – in terms of its physical environment, its culture and the way it operates: an unrepresentative House is only unjust in principle but impairs the effectiveness of the House of Commons and undermines its credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Held in contempt

What’s wrong with the House of Commons?

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